If you have been coughing persistently for more than four to eight weeks, you must seek medical help as it can be an early indicator of COPD. (Image: Shutterstock)

If you have been coughing persistently for more than four to eight weeks, you must seek medical help as it can be an early indicator of COPD. (Image: Shutterstock)

Viruses can be spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Winter is the season of cough and cold. Although catching a cold is not particularly dangerous, dealing with it can be challenging due to its contagious nature.  This can happen if you shake hands with someone who has a cold or touches a surface that has respiratory viruses on it. Nobody enjoys being sick and bedridden all day long.

So, rather than popping pills to relieve a stuffy nose, it is better to prevent coughs and colds from starting in the first place. Here are some safety measures that you can implement to stay fit and protect yourself from common winter ailments:

• Wash your hands at regular intervals

One of the greatest learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic has been to wash your hands properly at regular intervals. Cold-causing viruses spread through an infected person’s coughs and sneezes which can stay on hands and surrounding surfaces for 24 hours. If you are near someone who is sick, wash your hands frequently with soap and water before eating or touching your face. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are also effective. When working outside, keep your environment clean.

• Consume probiotics daily

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and can help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. Some studies have suggested that probiotics may have a role in boosting the immune system and reducing the incidence of respiratory infections. Kimchi, curd, tempeh and other probiotic-rich foods are easily available in your local stores.

• Take steam

Steam can not only relieve winter coughs and colds but it can also be used to prevent them. Inhaling steam or adding humidity to one’s surroundings via a humidifier can help with air quality-related ailments. To inhale steam, use a steamer or simply heat a large bowl of hot water and place your head over it with a towel on top to keep the steam from dissipating. For 10 minutes, take slow, deep breaths while the steam escapes. During the winter, make sure to inhale steam every three to four days.

• Practice breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can be extremely beneficial in preventing colds and coughs. When you start breathing forcefully during the exercise, you create friction, which causes the nasal track to become warm.

• Sunbathe

Studies suggest that Vitamin D contributes to the effective functioning of the immune system. In the winter, Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent due to less sunlight exposure. Most people only need 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day to get the recommended amount of Vitamin D. Make sure to consciously consume this vitamin to keep your immune system operating at its peak level.

• Quit smoking

Heavy smokers are more likely to experience frequent and severe colds. Even passive smoking can impair your immune system, which is your body’s defence against pathogens. Smoke causes the nasal passages to become dry. It affects your cilia, the tiny hairs that border your nose and lungs.

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